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September 4, 2015

The Prisoner: Once Upon A Time

by Michael Sciannamea, posted Sep 2nd 2006 6:15PM

Will Number 6 survive Degree Absolute?(S01E16) It has come down to this. Number 6's captors have failed in every attempt to get him to tell them why he resigned. Since this is the second to last episode in the series, something has to give.

It doesn't take long to realize that this episode is going to be an interesting one because Leo McKern returns as Number 2. In my opinion, he is the best Number 2 because he just seems so comfortable in the role. As he returns, we can see that he is not happy to be there. It appears that he has been brought back to ascertain Number 6's reason for his resignation. Upon looking at Number 6's actions on the video screen, he asks angrily, "Why do you care?"

Finally, Number 2 decides to risk it all because there is no other alternative. He orders that a "Degree Absolute" take place, whereby he and Number 6 will be alone together for a period of one week. At the end, only one of them will emerge--until death do them part.

Number 2 orders everyone out and he, along with Number 6 and the Butler, are in a secluded room somewhere deep in the bowels of the Village. The room contains objects from Number 6's past, including a rocking horse, playground equipment, and things you would find in a school. Number 2 sets out his objective:

A. Find Missing Link
B. Put It Together
C. Bang!

Number 6 is taken through a series of incidents in his life, especially from his early youth, but Number 2 does all he can to have him answer this simple question: "Why did you resign?"

No matter how far they mess with Number 6's mind, Number 6 refuses to reveal his reason. Number 2 is trying everything, including boxing and fencing scenes, a mock trial, and being locked up in a cell. Nothing is working. Finally, after asking him for the umpteenth time, Number 6 does say something about his resignation. He says, "For peace of mind." Number 2 is not satisfied, so Number 6 adds, "Too many people know too much."

Later on, it appears that Number 2 is fading out. He has tried everything, but nothing has worked. Suddenly, the roles are reversed, and Number 6 is now questioning Number 2, asking him why won't he resign from his post. Number 2 realizes that he only has five minutes left, but Number 6 clearly has the upper hand. Number 6 locks Number 2 in his cell after counting down the time. Number 6 implores him to die, and then Number 2 collapses. He really is dead! Number 6 has won the ultimate victory.

The security chief walks in and congratulates Number 6, who then requests to see Number 1. The end of the story is near, we think. What will happen when Number 6 finally meets Number 1?

Until next time

Be seeing you!

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This has been a great series, Michael, and I've enjoyed the memories a lot! But I must respectfully disagree with Michael and agree with Toby on this point.

It doesn't even seem to be McGoohan's voice exhorting Number Two to die -- and the voice says "Die, Six, die!" so who was it directed to? -- and I don't see why anyone would think that would be the Prisoner's desire. The whole episode leads up to a point where captor and captive have virtually traded places, with the Prisoner ultimately suggesting that Number Two should resign! They've achieved some kind of respect for one another as equals, and the Prisoner seems shocked and angry at Number Two's sudden death. His behavior towards the Supervisor at the end isn't so much that of a conquering hero as it is an attitude of "let's get this ugly business over with at last."

And what happens in the last episode makes it even more clear how the Prisoner regards his former interrogator. Or would that be telling...?

September 04 2006 at 2:01 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Toby OB

Well, that's certainly a different spin on the ending which I never considered.

I thought the voiceover imploring Number 2 to die was coming from outside sources monitoring the proceedings. And perhaps it was pre-programmed with Number Six in mind as the victim.

What especially makes me think it couldn't have been Number Six forcing Number Two into that situation is that the character is somewhat based on McGoohan's own persona. (They even share the same birth date.)

As such, McGoohan's faith would never allow him to play a hero in shades of grey; one reason why he turned down the role of James Bond, I've read. His villains are thoroughly reprehensible, but his heroes don't kill unless their own life is threatened. 'Danger Man' never even used a gun.

At least, that's the way I've always seen him, both as the actor and as the hero.....

September 02 2006 at 9:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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